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Levi Strauss, Gap Band With Brands to Make Design Field More Inclusive

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The U.S. Consensus Bureau reports that less than 5 percent of designers are Black, despite making up 12 percent of the U.S. labor force. Judging by these statistics, building a more diverse industry won’t happen overnight. Many organizations looking to make real change realize the need to begin their efforts at the student level, providing education and mentorship opportunities to young talent entering the industry.

Levi Strauss and Gap are some of the fashion brands doing their part to level the playing field by joining the newly launched Diversity in Design (DID) Collaborative, a multi-corporation initiative that fosters systemic change for Black youth. The organization consists of 20 founding members across various industries like marketing and design.

DID’s main focus is on increasing design awareness and education at the middle school, high school and college levels with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), community colleges, higher-learning programs and nonprofit organizations that serve Black youth. It will help provide students with access to internships and employment in the design field.

“We are so excited to holistically grow and positively impact diverse talent in these industries and very much look forward to welcoming fresh young and creative talent into our company,” said Elizabeth A. Morrison, LS&Co.’s chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer. “We authentically want to reflect our fans and the communities where we live and work and know that with a truly diverse workforce we will take our products, business and culture to new and exciting heights.”

The organization facilitates all types of design—fashion, furniture, graphic and everything in between—and on its website calls attention to the various Black designers that created game-changing solutions such as the doorknob, invented by Osbourn Dorsey in 1878, the mailbox, invented by P. Downing in 1891 and the traffic signal, invented by Garrett Morgan in 1923.

According to Karyn Hillman, LS&Co.’s senior vice president and chief product officer, diverse representation is crucial to more inclusive and creative design. “Designers and creatives thrive in environments where all identities, experiences and ideas are embraced,” she said. “These are essential ingredients for inclusive, relevant design.”

Levi Strauss’ participation follows through on the diversity and inclusion commitments it mapped out in June 2020 when it published its first diversity report. In the report, it pledged to continue its partnership with HBCUs and diverse campus organizations.

Gap recently announced winners of its “Closing the Gap” awards program established in partnership with Harlem’s Fashion Row (HFR) and ICON360 to strengthen educational opportunities for the next generation of Black fashion leaders. It also sponsored HFR’s “Fashion Playbook,” an online video content library that provides Black students with advice for accessing the fashion industry.